Sunday, December 31, 2006

darfur is dying

In a past post (el emigrante) I brought folk's attention to some free online video games which dealt with "Grenada-esque" themes but were done in very questionable taste. As a contrast, Darfur is Dying is an online "game" which actually tries to spread some awareness about the situation in Darfur and is done in a much more respectful and realistic tone. It is still basically a video game so it definitely has its limitations as a way of conveying information. I also wonder to what extent it might be considered a form of propaganda.

I've noticed other examples of people using online games to encourage people to think in certain ways about a certain situation. The most fun example which comes to mind is the McDonald's Videogame where you are given the task of successfully running McDonald's. The action takes place on four different levels: initial production of feed and livestock, preparing cattle for slaughter, management of employees at the franchise-level, and finally setting the broader corporate policies. The game has a very good cartoon visual-style and is simple enough to be manageable, but complex enough to remain interesting. The game also has an interesting anti-McDonald's slant; opportunites abound to engage in all sorts of shady activities (e.g. adding industrial waste or hormones to the feed, mistreating your employees, bribing a variety of public officials, bulldozing a tribal village for their land, etc.) and the economic and ecological harms which McDonald's contributes to are emphasized throughout.

I suspect that the McDonald's game has actually gotten some people nervous because I've recently seen a hastily programed game called Bacteria Salad which emphasizes the dangers of fuits and vegetables?!?!?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

eid mubarak y'all

A blessed eid to all those celebrating today and a second helping for those celebrating tomorrow. And if you are interested in some of the astronomical/fiqh issues you might want to check out Hamza Yusuf has to say about the issue over at Crescentwatch.org.

kwanzaa in the blogosphere

It doesn't look like anyone took me up on my suggestion in it's beginning to look a lot like kwanzaa... to create a Kwanzaa blogring. But in any case, with the exception of anti-Kwanzaa right-wing bloggers who basically copied or linked to Ann Coulter saying nasty things about Maulana Karenga, fewer people than I expected seem to have blogged about Kwanzaa at all this year. But here are some of the meatier, thoughtful and positive examples of folks blogging on the merits and significance of Kwanzaa. Enjoy! Peace.
So What Can I Do? (last year) Umoja , Kujichagulia , Ujima , Ujamaa , Nia , Kuumba , Imani
and also:
Karenga's Us Organization Website

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

do platanos go wit' collard greens?

Since today is the first day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is umoja or unity, it seemed appropriate to mention the following:

Platanos and Collard Greens is a play based on David Lamb's first novel, Do Platanos Go Wit' Collard Greens which centers around a romantic relationship between an African-American man and a Dominican woman. I have not yet seen the play, but I have read the novel. One recurring theme is the common African heritage of African-Americans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.

To be sure, there are other works on this topic I would recommend more highly such as Piri Thomas' Down These Mean Streets or Jesus Colon's A Puerto Rican in New York and other Sketches. But Lamb's novel, and presumably the play, serve as a decent introduction to these issues in the idiom of the hip-hop generation.

See also:
On cross-racial unity:
an open letter from latinos to african american sisters and brothers
on being black at a latino march

On Afrolatinos and the African component of Latin culture:
piri thomas interview
the afrolatino connection
black and hispanic
the black latino experience
somos primos: black latino connection
african aspects of the puerto rican personality

And for a heads-up on an upcoming conference at UC Berkeley:
beyond visibility: rethinking the african diaspora in latin america

Monday, December 25, 2006

all hail dragon jesus?

You may have heard about the Virgin dragon to give birth in holiday season. Flora is a Komodo Dragon living at the Chester Zoo who has managed to lay fertile eggs without ever being exposed to a male Komodo Dragon. It has long been known that other organisms have the capacity to reproduce in this fashion (known as parthenogenesis)but this is one of the first cases it has been observed in a Komodo Dragon.

The story reminds me of the Woodland Critter Christmas episode of South Park which centers around a porcupine giving birth to a Savior (with a twist).

richards' racist rant (epilogue)

Shortly after the Richard's meltdown, the folks at National Lampoon quickly put together the parody Seinfeld: The Lost Episode combining new footage with clips from the original show. Personally I found it hilarious. And some of the clips (especially with Kramer in "blackface") show that even well before the meltdown, the Seinfeld show left something to be desired when it comes to its racial politics.

Andy Dick -- The New "Kramer"?
Wayans Drops N-Bomb, Faces Fallout

Andy Dick was already near the top of my list of least favorite comedians but reading about him dropping n-bombs at LA's Improv certainly isn't helping. Damon Wayans has also attained the infamous distinction of being the first famous comedian to violate the Laugh Factory's n-word policy (resulting in a $320 fine and a 3 month ban).

While I'm glad that the Laugh Factory seems to be applying their policy equally to black and white comedians, I do think that on a social level, black and white usage of the n-term and similar comments can be viewed differently. The identity of the speaker is part of the context which can have a large impact on the significance of the word.

For example, what if both Marcus Garvey and the Grand Wizard of the Klan say to a Black person: "Go Back to Africa." The same four words, in one case they are an expression of solidarity, pride and achievement. In the other case they are an expression of exclusion, rejection and worthlessness.

I tend to think Michael Jackson jokes (about him being or becoming white) tend to have the same split. When a black comedian does such a joke, the subtext is often "Michael, we love you. Come back home." When a white comedian does it, the subtext is more likely "N------ please, who do you think you are?" The difference is all in the context.

Grenada's past:
richards' racist rant
richards' racist rant (part 2)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

black presidents (part two)

I'm still working on a blog entry about some of the past real-life Black presidential candidates, but in the meantime...

just today, NPR's All Things Considered did a report called Will American Voters Elect a Black President? which dealt with the idea of a Black president in general and Barack Obama specifically. The point which resonated the most with me is the idea that although there are clearly Black candidates who are qualified to be commander and chief and leader of the free world, the white electorate has a basic fear that a "black president" would seriously address and eliminate white privilege. And that is one deep and serious security blanket for a lot of folks. Like Chris Rock said: "there's not a white man in this room that would change places with me, none of you and I'm rich"


black presidents (part one)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

there is something about mary (gabriel's message)

Gabriel's Message is a version of an old Basque Christmas Carol from A Very Special Christmas Album (released back in 1987). I remember seeing Sting perform this song on tv back in the day and at the time I found it hauntingly beautiful. I still kind of like it, especially since it doesn't raise any theological problems. If you don't believe me, just check out the recent Guadalupe post to see what Islam has to say about Mary.

The Angel Gabriel from Heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
"All Hail!" said he, "Thou Holy Maiden Mary,"
"Most Highly Favoured Lady,"
Gloria!

"For know a Blessed Mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honour thee
Thy Son shall be Immanuel, by seers foretold
Most highly favoured Lady,"
Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
"To me, be as it pleaseth God," she said.
My soul shall laud and magnify His holy Name
Most highly favoured Lady!
Gloria!

Of her Immanuel, the Christ was born,
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn.
And everyone throughout the world forever saved,
Most highly favoured lady!
Gloria!

it's beginning to look a lot like kwanzaa...

Last year, I wrote a whole series of posts on the seven principles of kwanzaa (the nguzo saba) and on the holiday as a whole. And in the course of doing that series, I started to look around and see that a lot of other Black bloggers were also reflecting on the principles daily and it occured to me that it might be productive/ deep/ interesting/ beneficial if there was a blogring/ carnival out there to bring together all the kwanzaa bloggers. At the moment, I'm honestly not certain of the best way to implement it so the main purpose of the current post is to encourage someone out there with more web knowledge and initiative to pick up the torch. What I have in mind is some sort of easy-to-join, easy-to-read, easy-to-link-to forum where bloggers can share their thoughts on the Nguzo Saba. It doesn't have to be some kind of cultural-nationalist-Karenga-fan-club (some of my posts were definitely critical of certain aspects of Karenga's ideology) but I would hope the participants would take the principles seriously and wrestle with their significance to our lives today.

Last year's Kwanzaa series:
kwanzaa
umoja
tawhid (umoja cont')
kujichagulia
ujima
ujima continued
ujamaa
julius nyerere and ujamaa
why i like it, why i don't
even a stopped clock
nia
kuumba
imani
kwanzaa gains momentum among caribbean blacks

Thursday, December 14, 2006

lupe fiasco

Lupe is a devout Muslim, although he admits to not being a role model Muslim.

Lupe on Islam:
"Well, I was born Muslim, so Islam plays a part in my everything I do, to a certain extent. I'm not like the poster boy for Islam you know what I'm saying? So it's like I still got my flaws and stuff like that, so I don't really wear that on my sleeve. [But] I'm really with some underlying consciousness, no matter what it is that I can talk about -cocaine, or I can talk about carrying guns. I've been literally carrying guns since I was five, like four or five years old, simply because my father was in the military and he wanted to teach us how to shoot. I've been shooting AK's since I was as baby, you know? I don't like to glorify ignorance or nothing like that, but I know you need to – you can talk about it in certain aspects. You'll still get the people who don't listen unless you're talking about nonsense. Catch their ear, and then at the same time, teach them something, you know? It [also] plays on the extra curricular stuff that happens about, about being like a rapper and being in the music business like going to – all right, I don't go to clubs, I don't drink, I don't smoke, you know like my whole – the whole groupie situation is shut down."

Official Lupe Fiasco page
Lupe Fiasco on Myspace
Lupe Fiasco on Islam (with lyrics and music to "Muhammad Walks")
Wikipedia: Lupe Fiasco

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

return to guadalupe

I learned recently that today(December 12) is the feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe so I thought it would be nice (and easy) to put together some past entries on the subject of the Virgin of Guadalupe specifically, and the theological significance of Mary in Islam generally.

islam in mexico - the spanish conquest
more thoughts from the guadalupe candle
the name guadalupe
the once and future goddess
the wise men
the son of mary
jesus and the virgin mary in islam
immaculate conception

Some of this (devotion to saints) (reminds me of the similarities between Orthodox/Catholic Christianity and what I would call orthodox/traditional Islam (use of tangible objects like rosaries/tasbihs or "talismans", richness and solemnity of ritual, an aesthetic sensibility) which I alluded to in the radical middle way.

Monday, December 11, 2006

another latino muslim blogger

I just found AHL AL HADITH - reviving the way of reason and revelation put together by Yusuf Ibn Yusuf Abu Al Hussein who seems to come from a Salafi perspective. Born in USA of Latin American descent. Graduated with a BA in Philosophy and in Sociology. Studied to be Catholic Priest for 2 and half years and then converted to Islam. Student of: Islamic American University, Michigan USA.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

black presidents (part one)

It is amazing to me how powerful the very concept of a "Black President" is in terms of the varied ways it has been a frequent catalyst for the popular comedic, dramatical and political imagination.

At first, I was just looking around on YouTube and came across Richard Pryor doing a "Black President" sketch for his short-lived television series but very quickly many other examples sprang to mind.

Dave Chappelle: Black President Bush
Dave Chappelle: If Deep Impact kept it real (Dave as Morgan Freeman as the President)
Dave Chappelle: Wyclef's If I was President
Wyclef's Video: If I was President

In 1964, Irving Wallace published a novel called "The Man" about the first Black president of the United States. The book was later on made into a film with James Earl Jones as the lead. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling who is most famous as the creator of the Twilight Zone. (I'll try not to read too much into that). Of course the main character isn't actually elected as President. Instead he was elected to the Senate (and becomes President Pro Tempore) but after the first couple of people in the Presidential order of succession either die or become incapacitated he becomes the next person in line.

More recently we have also have Dennis Haysbert's portrayal of Black President, David Palmer on the popular series 24.

The last two examples are the most realistic and emphasize the complex set of challenges and obstacles which would face a Black man who fills "the most powerful office on the planet". The earlier examples are more imaginative than realistic and (with the exception of Black Bush) I would argue that the Black President idea is used as a vehicle to express a certain utopian vision.

An example which is both absolutely realistic and totally hilarious is the Onion piece: Zambia Elects Black President

Although strictly speaking, not on Black Presidents, there are also some poignant examples of criticizing the current president in terms of his policies towards the Black community among others:
Pink - Dear Mr. President
George Bush Don't Like Black People (Remix)

More later. In part two I'll want to bring in discussions of some of the real live candidates for the position of Black president: Barack Hussein Obama, Shirley Chisolm, Eldridge Cleaver, Lenora Fulani, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et alia.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

in the cards?

I got this from Sister Scorpion's post: You are the Female Mullah (not!) The questions didn't seem all that deep, but here is how I came out:


You are The Hierophant


Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.


The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.

spilling the beans

Over at the Third Resurrection blog I just added two entries on recent books/papers which offer candid looks at the current situation in Israel/Palestine. jimmy carter and the a-word brings together a couple of links related to Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. While the israel lobby and u.s. foreign policy points to a controversial working paper which came out several months ago with the thesis that the Pro-Israel lobby has way too much influence on how the U.S. government chooses to act in the Middle East.

"to the shores of tripoli..."

Since Sondjata wanted something "meatier" on Dennis Prager's ignorant comments about Keith Ellison's decision to take his oath of office on a Quran instead of a Bible:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Article 11, the Treaty of Tripoli (the Treaty of Peace and Friendship) signed 1796.

The above passage is of particular significance because as part of a treaty it was ratified by the U.S. Senate (unanimously) and signed by the President so it had a certain amount of legal force (until the treaty was broken). The passage is also especially relevant in the present case because it explicitly refers to Islam (although in somewhat dated terms). On the other hand, the famous phrase "wall of separation between church and state" was never legally binding in the same way and instead comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson giving his interpretation of the establishment clause (i.e. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...").

In any case, the treaty is clear. "... the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". And Prager's tirade is cut off at the knees.

But as silly as Prager is, he does make me think about certain deeper issues. For example, when it comes to politics in the Muslim world (e.g. Algeria, Turkey, Iraq after the dust settles), I feel like I definitely need to think through some of the details, but I generally feel like the best kind of government would somehow combine democratic reforms and large helpings of Islamic law. It only makes sense. If you are in a part of the world where most of the population consists of religious Muslims and you set up a government there which is responsive to the values, beliefs, hopes, aspirations and interests of the people, then you should expect the government to be "Islamic" to some degree.

So when I look back to Prager's piece, I'm not really objecting to the idea of a religious state per se but I'm mainly making the legal/historical objection that U.S. was neither set up nor intended as a "Christian nation". Religious states certainly have their own special sets of dangers and temptations but at this point I wouldn't categorically throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"i'm not sure about the universe"

A saying, often attributed to Albert Einstein goes: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity... and I'm not sure about the universe."

Here is an example from Dennis Prager: America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on

Basically, recently elected Muslim Congressman (takbir!) Keith Ellison announced that he would take his oath of office on a Quran instead of a Bible. And Dennis Prager, who apparently is advocating for America as a homogeneous Bible-based culture, seems to have a problem with it. In every other sentence of his tirade Prager alternates between displaying deep misunderstanding of Islam, the US Constitution, freedom of religion, American history and the nature of extremism.

For some non-stupid reponses to Prager's rant check out:
Taylor Marsh: That Uppity Democratic Muslim!
The Carpetbagger Report: It’s not a change of Biblical proportions
Professor Bainbridge's Journal: Dennis Prager goes off the Rails re Keith Ellison

Thursday, November 30, 2006

richards' racist rant (part 2)

In the wake of Michael Richards' meltdown on stage, several new developments have come up. For now I just wanted to talk about how a number of black leaders have met with media heads to discuss use of "the n-word".

AP: Black leaders seek end to use of slur

For me the most surprising piece of this is that after watching Richards' rant, even Paul Mooney has said that he will no longer use "the n-word". "He's my Dr. Phil," Mooney said. "He's cured me."

Paul Mooney definitely expressed a noble sentiment and if he can stick to his pledge, more power to him. But to be honest, I really don't believe he will. I mean, Mooney is the brother who made the claim "I say nigga 100 times every morning... it makes my teeth white". He was a close friend and collaborator to Richard Pryor, but even after Pryor's trip to Africa when he decided to quit using the word, Mooney kept right on going. Mooney even has an upcoming film 'Jesus is Black and so was Cleopatra' which is about to be released and which is definitely liberally 'seasoned' with the n-word. (Also, thinking about the film makes me wonder if the title is at all a reference to the title of Sarah Silverman's film 'Jesus is Magic'. Both Silverman and Mooney are stand-up comedians who deal with race in ways which are intense, edgy and skillfull.) Ultimately, I suspect that Mooney will probably tone down his live performances, especially if the Laugh Factory is serious about fining comedians who use the slur on stage, but I doubt that he will quit cold turkey.

Myspace: Jesus is Black and so was Cleopatra

Grenada's past:
"it makes my teeth white" - paul mooney
richard pryor (1940-2005)
word association
deep cover
rebirth of a word, a film, a slur
najee ali v. the boondocks

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

richards' racist rant

By now a lot of bloggers and punidits have already put in their two cents on the whole Michael "Kramer" Richards racist rant situation so I'll assume you know the basic facts of what happened. (If you don't, I've included several links below).

My own contribution to that conversation as follows:

From a free speech perspective, Michael Richards has the right to say pretty much whatever he wants to on stage and I'm glad that I live in a country where it is legal for anyone with a microphone (or a blogger account) to say all sorts of offensive things without facing legal sanction. In that light, I have definite resistance to the idea that the courts should make Richards pay monetary damages for his actions. At the same time, I am also glad I live in a country where I have the right to call someone like Michael Richards out as a racist prick. And given that he had such a fundamental disrespect for the Black paying members of his audience it would only be appropriate for his career to be adversely affected.

Also, to add a certain amount of historical perspective to the situation, this isn't even the first (or second) time that the cast of Seinfeld has been involved in racial controversy.

The first case which comes to mind is the Puerto Rican Day episode (which included a number of stereotypical Puerto Rican characters along with a scene where Michael Richards accidentally sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire and then stomps on the flag in full view of some Puerto Rican parade-goers.) NBC actually had to apologize for airing the episode and took it out of circulation for years even after Seinfeld went into syndication.

The second racial controversy involving the Seinfeld show which I'm aware of has to do with the time that Danny Hoch was asked to play a stereotypical Hispanic character (Ramon, the crazy pool cleaner) and ended up refusing the role. (He reminds me of the Hollywood Shuffle line: "There is always work at the post office")

So I would argue that Richard's rant is really not surprising given his time on a show with such a track record.

The best analysis of the situation I've seen so far comes from Dan Charnas over at Dantrification:

I harbor no illusions: The construct for “Seinfeld,” like so many other comic teleplays and films, is a monochromatic world where White People are central, and people of color — if they appear at all — are simply used as accessories, as added “color” for a scene.

When you think about “Seinfeld,” and you realize the only recurring Black characters were either there because they made our white heroes uncomfortable simply by being Black (like George’s nemesis Mr. Morgan at the Yankees); or to parody a Black celebrity (like Kramer’s erstwhile lawyer Jackie Chiles doing his best Johnnie Cochran), you get a peek inside the archaic white psyche. It’s a headspace where white people simply do not know how to deal with a world that is slowly become not their own. So they literally ignore it. “Seinfeld” is Ralph Ellison’s argument made visual.

Many of my friends live in this space. Many of your friends do too. They’re the white friends who giggle when hip-hop comes on, rather than bob their heads to it. It’s not that we can’t be friends with them. It’s just that we choose to live multiculturally and they don’t... either because they don’t know how, don’t want to, don’t have to, or they are afraid to.

When white folks are brought out of this space, they can have a number of reactions. Some take kindly to reality. Others snap.

I’m sure that Michael Richards doesn’t believe he is a racist. I’m sure, on an intellectual level, believes in equal rights for all. But we never find the truth until we get cornered. When Black folks are pushing his buttons, Richards’ response, apparently, is to tell Black people they have no right to push his buttons because they’re Black. That is the very definition of deep-seated, latent racism. Sorry.


That should be enough for now. More later.

You Tube: Michael Richards' Rant
You Tube: Michael Richards' "Apology"
You Tube: Seinfeld: The Puerto Rican Day episode
Script for The Puerto Rican Day

hiphopmusic.com: The Definitive "Racist Kramer" Post (Updated)

Revolutionary Worker: Danny Hoch's People
You Tube: Danny Hoch exposes Seinfeld

The Manrilla Blog: Racism, Kramer and Why His Apology Meant Nothing To Me
Digg: Comedian Paul Mooney rips Michael Richards on FOX News
Racialicious: Kramer drops the n-bomb repeatedly in racist tirade
African American (Black) Opinion: African American Opinion Reader says: Michael Richards a.k.a Kramer is only the tip of the iceberg.
Alternet: Richards' N-Word Diatribe

Monday, November 27, 2006

theories/practices of blogging


Recently the online publication Reconstruction came out with their latest issue and the unifying theme is Theories/Practices of Blogging. And in addition to a number of meatier articles on the socio-cultural implications of blogging, the issue features many different bloggers (including yours truly) talking more briefly about why they blog. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

islam and natural healing (part two)

I was trying to find more information about healing in Islam and came across the following over at Muslimheritage.com:
Arabic Medicine in the Mediteranean
Bone Fractures in Ibn Sina's Medicine
along with some other articles on medicine from Muslimheritage.com

After thinking a bit more about the subject of medicine I started to have two contrasting trains of thought.

First I started to think back to other posts I've written about how Islam is reminiscent of a nature-based religion. The religious calendar follows the cycles of the moon. The prayer times don't follow "clock-time" but instead depend on the position of the sun, the lengths of shadows and the appearance of the sky. Animal sacrifices vividly remind Muslims of how life depends on life. And in many other ways Islam is a "natural" path. This is fleshed out (pun intended) a little bit more in the Grenada post called where's the beef? on islam and vegetarianism which also links to yet another post on the vegan Hardline movement. An argument can definitely be made that Islam encourages a drug-free natural wholistic organic approach to health/nutrition and other areas of life.

On the other hand, the above approach can't be absolute. The human body is a complex collection of distinct interrelated systems which can get sick in a variety of ways. It would be a bit naive to totally dismiss conventional medicine and exclusively rely on "natural" methods.

Something else which occurs to me is that almost by its very nature, the practice of medicine is going to tend to be ecclectic. Not all disorders can be treated in the same way. So instead of trying to find a "pure" Islamic system of medicine it actually makes sense to combine conventional medicine with prophetic techniques and alternative approaches. For example, I've read before that Chinese Muslims have developed "Islamic" versions of Qi Gong. (If I find out much more about this I'll probably blog about it.) And I imagine that Muslims in other parts of the world have also developed their own syncretic healing methods (which will still manifest some family resemblance due to common Islamic elements).

an old but timely boondocks strip from 2003

Caesar and Huey are hanging out by a tree and Huey says out loud:
Moderate, Reasonable Leftists argue that even though we may not support the war, what's happened has happened and there's no point in dwelling in the past. [pause] All of those people, mind you, are still mad at OJ

Monday, November 20, 2006

say hello to khalil al-puerto rikani

I've been meaning to update and reorganize my blogroll for a while now, but until then I'll use this entry to give a shout out to a Latino (Puerto Rican) Muslim blogger: Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

Saturday, November 18, 2006

farrakhan steps back

In These Times: Farrakhan Steps Back by Salim Muwakkil is an incredibly thoughtful piece about the implications of Farrakhan's declining role within the Nation of Islam. Although in the wider media Farrakhan is often dismissed as a fanatic, Muwakkil argues (persuasively I think) that in the context of the Nation, Farrakhan's political skill has been a moderating, unifying factor.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

say hello to kameelah

Blogger is acting up so some glitches have turned up when I tried to add Kameelah as a contributor for Third Resurrection. But in the meantime, you can check out her blog, Kameelahwrites. She is currently writing from Johannesburg and in her profile she writes:
born and raised in east palo alto, CA, i am a dash of eclectic smarts, a pinch of unapologetic sarcasm and a sprinkle of grace all wrapped up quite nicely in a 5 foot 1 hijabi package. raised on gil-scott heron and nasheeds. i am a beautiful shade of brown, certified black person (ask me how to get your certificate!), green-tea drinker, rad. vegan, political organizer, community researcher, artist, teacher, writer, renewed marxist and professional smarty pants.

Monday, November 13, 2006

in death, unconquered

In the spirit of my hypothetical muslim art of war project I'm going to direct y'all to a recent post over at Rasa'il Khalil al-Wafa' (Letters of a loyal friend) called Morior Invictus on the subject of The Concept of Taqwa in Ali Ibn Abi Talib's Sermons on Jihad

the aztec al-qaeda

La Voz De Aztlan: The story Mayor Villaraigosa falsely tied to Al-Qaeda is only tangentially related to Muslims. It is really more about a nativist PR attack against Villaraigosa and Academia Semillas del Pueblo, a Chicano charter school in Los Angeles. But it is interesting (and frightening) to see how the xenophobia seems to be coming from the same place and taking similar shape.

see also:
palestinian che

Saturday, November 11, 2006

new muslims in spain

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, In Spain, dismay at Muslim converts holding sway discusses the growing prominence of Spanish converts to Islam as voices of moderation. The piece also gets into some of the criticism faced by these new Muslims both from inside and outside the Muslim community.

islam and natural healing

I've been thinking about health recently (both my own and that of people close to me) and so I went to my bookshelf and dusted off my copy of "Natural Healing with the Medicine of the Prophet" (a translation of an older work by Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya 1292-1350 CE).

The whole concept of "Islamic medicine" is intriguing for the most part, but also has its limitations.

If we stick strictly to the Quran and hadith there are a number of texts which give some sort of medical advice but it is not clear that this constitutes a totally comprehensive and detailed medical theory. For example:
And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build: Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colours, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect. (16:68-69)

or the famous hadith from Bukhari:
Abu Huraira, God be pleased with him, narrated in the correct prophet traditions that God's messenger (saaws) said: "Use this black seed regularly, because it has a cure for every disease except death"

Imam Al-Jawziyya's work also includes many other hadith (of varying degrees of authenticity) with assorted bits of advices on matters health and illness (texts on food, drink, sleep, cupping, spiritual aspects of healing and related subjects).

From a modern perspective, some of this material is challenging. As Muslims do we have to accept all of it (for example blood-letting) as sound medical advice, or can we sift through some of it and say it is not really "prophetic" but merely reflects the ordinary fallible medical knowledge which was in circulation at the time of the prophet (saaws)?

Moreover, when "Islamic medicine" was developed, doctors took the prophetic elements and inserted them into a matrix of Greek medical knowledge (e.g. Galen and Hippocrates) and so Al-Jawziyya's text also assumes the four humour theory which was current in Europe during the Middle Ages. (The resulting mix of Graeco-Arab ideas is sometimes called Unani medicine and is similar to Aryuvedic medicine. Both are still practiced today in some communities).

It makes me wonder to what extent is it possible to take the truly "prophetic" aspects of Islamic medicine and come up with a truly Islamic wholistic system? Or are we left with a few isolated remedies which are culled from the Quran and hadith and are then tossed into the context of another system (whether modern, metaphysical or alternative)? Is the answer different if we are talking about mental health as opposed to physical health?

I found the following links on the above subject but I'm not a doctor. I'm including these pages because they are interesting and topical but if you are sick and need help you should go see a qualified expert (however you define that) for advice.

The Medicine of the Prophet: A Message Par Excellence by Dr. M. Iqtedar Husain Farooqi
CrescentLife: Health & Healing: Islamic Perspective
Dr.Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal: Islamic Medicine Online
Wikipedia: unani
www.unani.com
Medicine of the Prophet
The Sufi Enneagram Website

Thursday, November 09, 2006

islamo-futurism?

From time to time here at (Planet) Grenada I bring in links/entries on Afro-futurism. Well, recently over at Hawgblawg, Ted Swedenburg has written a couple of entries on "Islamo-futurism". In Fun^Da^Mental's "786 All Is War": "Sufi surfing on boards of steel" Ted goes over the surreal and futuristic lyrics of Aki Nawaz. And in More on Islamic sci-fi/futurism he gives a heads up on Yusuf Nuruddin's recent article in Socialism and Democracy called "Ancient Black Astronauts and Extraterrestrial Jihads: Islamic Science Fiction as Urban Mythology". (Hopefully the article or a discussion of its contents will eventually be available online).

taina asili

Recently, I also had the chance to see an amazing performance by Puerto Rican spoken-word artist Tania Asili. Definitely check out her site and explore the links. Definitely think about giving her some $ support (either buy her CD or, if you are in a position to, book her for an event).

In a lot of ways, she reminded me of one of my cousins who has also done a lot of spoken word. Actually, in my generation there are about three of us who to varying degrees have done spoken word/poetry. At one point I thought to myself that maybe there is some kind of "poetry" gene in my family which made us get on stage. But more likely some of us are "odd birds" who have a lot to get off our chests and it almost can't help but come out as poetry.

see also:
teresa vazquez
black orpheus

Monday, November 06, 2006

seeds in the wind

I just wanted to turn y'all on to Seeds in the Wind. They haven't made it big yet but I will say that the singer/writer is one of the most sincere, good-natured people I know and you should check out their album. I would describe their sound as acoustic folk with lyrics which evoke Rastafarian spirituality.

climbing poetree

I first saw Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman (aka Climbing Poetree) a few years ago doing a multimedia spoken-word piece which explored the so-called War on drugs and made some powerful connections between US foreign policy in Colombia (where Alixa is from) and what is going on domestically in terms of the prosecution of drug-related offenses and treatment of prisoners. They do some deep work and I thought I should give them a shout-out.

I saw them perform recently and I got a kick out of seeing them do a piece on hip-hop which started off with Alixa making the very surprising Grenada-esque move of beatboxing while simultaneously playing a set of South American pipes!

I hope you enjoy exploring their sites and think about giving them some support for their work.

Climbing Poetree's main site
Climbing Poetree's Myspace Page

Sunday, November 05, 2006

in these times on borat

For a much more positive evaluation of the film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan you might also want to check out Adam Doster's piece from In These Times on The Crazy Kazakh Correspondent.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

complicaciones

Growing up, I think my first real exposure to Afro-Cuban music was an old Mongo Santamaria double-LP called Afro Roots which my parents had. I've gotten a bit more into Mongo Santamaria since then but I can't really call myself a fan. But I do really enjoy his album Our Man in Havana and in particular I think all the guaguancos on that album are amazingly beautiful.

The last piece on the album is a guaguanco called Complicaciones:

Que yo no quiero más complicación
La vida me traicionó

Yo la quería, ella también a mi
Yo la quería, ella también a mi
Y en un momento importuno
Ella se marchó

La mujer es como el pan
Que hay que comer lo caliente
Se lo deja enfriar
Ni el diablo le meta el diente
Quince años yo tenía
Cuando por primera vez
Dí mi voz a conocer
Y mi lírica poesía

Que yo no quiero más complicación
La vida me traicionó

No quiero complicación
La vida me traicionó


I'm just in that kind of mood.

Friday, November 03, 2006

borat and ali g

What is the difference between a white person in blackface and Sascha Baron Cohen, the English/Jewish comedian behind the characters of Borat and Ali G who presumably come from Muslim cultural backgrounds? (Borat is from Kazakhstan). I have a gut reaction but I'm really not trying to be rhetorical. That's an actual question. Does Sascha Cohen cross the line which seperates edgy and conscious cultural representation from a minstrel show?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the confederate states of america (part two)

After writing the previous post on the film the Confederate States of America, I wanted to add links to some other related entries from Planet Grenada's past:

On slavery, the civil war and our national character:
iraq and al qaeda, america and the kkk
afrofuturism/rebirth of a nation
post traumatic slave syndrome
what a country!

On racist images and language in contemporary times:
the mexican stamp controversy
understanding pickaninnies and improving the race
rebirth of a word, a film, a slur
accepting the slurs

On prisoners and the criminal justice system:
black cats who became muslim
johnnie cochran died today
ex-prisoner rights
cagedprisoners.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the confederate states of america

In keeping with the Halloween theme, I'm going to talk about a film with a rather frightening premise. I recently saw The Confederate States of America which is a fictional "mock-umentary" about what would have happened if the South won the Civil War (er.. the War of Northern Aggression) and slavery continued into 21st century America.

south moon 2

The film definitely had its high points, but to be honest it was not very impressive. The historical logic wasn't very persuasive. For example, originally, the South fought in order to secede from the Union but in the film, the South actually takes over the North. Not only that, the Confederate States of America then expands to the south and eventually absorbs Latin America as well. But to be fair, in the DVD interview with Kevin Willmott, the film's writer and director, he makes clear that the film was more about metaphor than historical realism. In our country there has always been a tension between the democratic, egalitarian, just principles of the "United States" and the racist, exclusionary, hierarchical, expansionist tendencies of the "Confederate States". Wlilmott's film was intended to provide a satirical look at those "Confederate" tendencies by taking them to an extreme.

For me, the most impressive aspect of the movie were the fictional commercial breaks which featured blatantly racist ads for things like the Coon Chicken Inn, Sambo motor oil or Niggerhair cigarettes. The "punchline" is that most of the ads (including those just mentioned) represent REAL products which were sold in our United States into the 40's and 50's.

Another of the more impressive commercials was a promo for a show called "Runaway" (clearly based on Cops). In the C.S.A, most vibrant expressions of Black culture had long since migrated north to Canada, so the reggae theme of "Bad Boys" was replaced by an upbeat song with more of a country twang. But there were still the same images of Black and Latino males running from white men, being restrained by officers, having guns pointed at them, etc. The obvious suggestion was that the police are just modern-day slavecatchers.

It reminded me of a spoken word piece by Detroit poet, Versiz where he describes an encounter with a traffic cop who stopped him and asked:
"So, do you know why I'm pulling you over?"

I asked if he wanted the short answer or the long one. He of course chose the wrong one so I had to give it to him. I had to give it to him the way they always give it to me. With no vaseline and with a straight face.

So I told him... "You are pulling me over because there was a corrupt system set in place used to manipulate and control the underclass through fear and intimidation, a system that you are an agent for. Now, whether or not you know your role remains to be seen so I guess the most important question is: Dude, Do you know why you are pulling me over?"

I couldn't help but smirk as I was being dragged out of the vehicle.

Of course it is fairly easy to cite other examples of artists and political writers who see similarities between the police and the prison industrial complex on the one hand, and slavery and other forms of oppression on the other. (But that's a meaty subject in itself and I'll have to explore it over several posts)

For other treatments of alternative history:
For Want of a Nail
The Guns of the South
Harry Turtledove
Bring the Jubilee
The Man in the High Castle
It Happened Here

Friday, October 27, 2006

even more heru

Every once in a while I check YouTube for more spoken word performances from Heru. This time I found three clips I hadn't seen before. I've posted versions of Lucy/Chambers and Wicked Man Dominion before but these performances took place at different venues. To the Core was performed at the DuSuble Theatre in Chicago and is totally new to Planet Grenada. Out of the three, I think my favorite is Lucy/Chambers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

a whole new (old) world...

This is a bit late, but over at Hood's blog, Islamic Law, Etc. he posted a narration from the salaf (the earliest generations of Muslims) which reminded him of Planet Grenada:
“Allah has servants beyond Al-Andalus, the distance between them and al-Andalus like the distance between us and al-Andalus. They do not view that any of creation has disobeyed Allah. Their stones are coral and pearls. Their mountains are of gold and silver. They do not plant nor harvest, nor do they work at all. They have a tree that grows at their doorstep which bears fruit which is their food as well as another tree with large, wide leaves from which they make their clothing.”

Just as Grenada/Granada evokes both the West Indian island and the Moor's last stand, for Hood, the passage recalls both Al-Andalus (Spain) and early European descriptions of the Caribbean.

To see Hood's post along with other folks comments, check out:
A whole new world...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

more heru on tv

YouTube: a brief feature on Heru (Pan-African spoken word artist and former classmate) for a new york tv station.

see also: we be broke while other folks' cash registers be like "i ching" "i ching" "i ching"

an inconvenient truth

Alberto Fernandez, a senior state department official recently partipated in an interview with Al-Jazeera where he admitted: "I think there is great room for strong criticism, because without doubt, there was arrogance and stupidity by the United States in Iraq." One opinion is that Fernandez's comments might generate a certain amount of goodwill in the Middle East since that is what most of the people think anyway. Let's hope his employers see it the same way.

BBC News: On the Alberto Fernandez interview

the 99

After my entry on Green Lantern and other Black superheroes, Hood gave me a heads up about The 99, a new comic about a team of Muslim superheroes whose powers are all based on the traditional ninety-nine names of Allah.

Here is an interview with the comic's writer/creator, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa and here is a more detailed article (originally from the New York Times) which gets into the general background of the characters and talks about the hurdles Dr. Mutawa has had to go through in order to make the comic book a reality.

Although comic books in general feature several heroes with "Oriental" associations, believing Muslims seem to be more rare. To my knowledge, in the DC universe, the most prominent Muslim hero is the Janissary while in the Marvel universe, the most prominent hero is a mutant known as Dust. In both cases, the characters are women.

Monday, October 23, 2006

understanding the new "racial olympics"

I've linked to articles from Hishaam D. Aidi in the past. In fact the passage of text at the top of the blog (which in some ways captures the scope of Planet Grenada) is loosely taken from an article by Aidi called "Let Us Be Moors". (Although the quote itself originates with post-colonial critic, Robert Young).

Now, in the article Slavery, Genocide and the Politics of Outrage: Understanding the New “Racial Olympics”, Hishaam D. Aidi explores the intersections between Black Nationalism, Zionism, Black Orientalism, Afro-Arab unity, 9/11 and the current crisis in Darfur.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

ramadan fiqh: intention, mindfulness and responsibility

Perhaps someone out there can shed some light on this issue. Something I've never really understood about the rules for Ramadan is the following... take two people, Zayd and Jamal.

Zayd is a conscientious Muslim. It is the month of Ramadan. Zayd made intention to fast on the night before. He even makes the effort to follow the sunnah and gets up before fajr in order to have a little something (say some water and dates) to help him last through the day. Unfortunately, he later finds out that his clock has been slow and it turns out that at least on a few occasions he had been eating and drinking after fajr had come in, even though he sincerely believed otherwise.

Now take Jamal. Jamal is not so conscientious. He didn't bother getting up before fajr. In fact, he slept through fajr. When he woke up he sort of realized it was Ramadan and so he knew to skip breakfast but other than that he started his day much as any other day. He was absorbed in various mundane tasks and responsibilities until the middle of the day when he would normally have a lunch break. As was his habit, he goes around the corner to his usual lunch spot to order some food. He noticed he was hungrier than usual so he gets the extra large sandwich, a large pop, a side order and some dessert. After his lunch break he goes back to work and an hour after his meal it occurs to him, with the appropriate amount of shock and surprise, that he just had a full meal in the middle of the day during the month of Ramadan.

Now here's the weird part: It is my understanding (based on the fiqh books I've read) that the slow clock doesn't constitute an excuse so Zayd's fast has been broken and he has to make up the days when he accidentally broke his fast. But Jamal's fast, on the other hand, actually hasn't been broken and that he doesn't have to make up any days.

First, it would probably be good to keep in mind that the question of what breaks your fast or not is different from the question of how actions are judged spiritually or not. For example, lying, gossiping and stealing don't break your fast either but that doesn't mean these are acceptable activities to engage in. Also, I would guess that the above issue is related to how scholars of fiqh understood the relationship between intention, minddfulness and responsibility, but I myself don't have a really good understanding of what the reasoning process is. Anyone out there have a good suggestion?

not much ramadan blogging

Today is the last day of Ramadan. The month has gone by very quickly. This year, I feel like I've been doing A LOT less blogging about the month of Ramadan itself compared to last year. In fact, I've been doing less blogging, period. On top of that, I should have taken more spiritual benefit from the month. We'll see what the rest of the year holds.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

what and why

I've had a draft of this post sitting around for a while but after I got an invitation from Reconstruction to talk about why I blog I figured I would get off my behind and finish it up.

When I originally started this blog, my basic idea was that I was going to comment on a lot of "Black stuff" "Muslim stuff" and "Latin stuff", preferably two at a time and ideally three at a time. (This ideal is generally what I mean by "Grenada-esque") After blogging for over a year, I am a bit more aware of the patterns which show up and can be more refined in describing them.

When I surf the web, stories where Latino/Hispanic issues overlap with Islam seem to be rather few and far between compared to the other combinations so I'm the least picky about those and will add links to what I find most of the time. On the other hand, the overlap between Black/African issues and Islam is much larger by comparison so I can be a little pickier. But for a while now I've been sending most of the interesting things I find or think about in this area to the Third Resurrection.

When it comes to Afro-Latino issues I generally don't talk about music because I feel many people only recognize the musical contributions of Black Latinos and have almost no concept of anything else. I would prefer to talk about Afro-Latinos in politics, literature, science or even sports. Similarly, it is common for Muslims to be viewed through a narrow political lens so I'd rather not talk about Middle Eastern politics, and I'd prefer to talk about Arab/Muslim cultural production (poetry, music, etc.) especially in the West.

The rest of the content of Planet Grenada is more varied. Random pieces on progressive politics, race, racism and culture. An occasional piece on Afrofuturism. Pieces on religious orthodoxy and more ecclectic forms of spirituality. Whatever tickles my fancy. Sometimes I imagine that I'm somehow contributing to the "emerging global anti-hegemonic culture" refered to at the top of my blog. Other times I write just to get things off my chest. So why do you blog?

tuesday i had fruit loops: revisited
hisham aidi

many receive nothing from the fast...

"Many receive nothing from the fast except hunger and thirst."
-a hadith

winning the grandmas, winning the war

APoC: Winning the Grandmas, Winning the War: Anarchists of Color, Religion and Liberation by Ernesto Aguilar is a brief look at some of the challenges which come up when secular leftists try to communicate and connect with more religious folks, especially people of color.

voices of resistance: muslim women on war, faith and sexuality

“There are no celebrity endorsements here for a certain kind of Islam, there is no list of permissible ingredients that can go into a canned version of good Muslimness, whether by the standards of the patriarchies inside or the colonialism outside.”
–by Shahnaz Habib
I recently found out about a new book to add to my shopping list; Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith & Sexuality (Sarah Hussein ed.) The book is a collection of narratives and prose by Muslim women from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds; Yemen, Iran, Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Canada, and the United States. And as implied by the above quote, the book seems to be about resisting convenient stereotypes and definitions of Muslim (female) identity.

Samar: Inside, Outside and Everywhere In Between a review by Shahnaz Habib
Amazon: Voices of Resistance
see also: living islam out loud

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

in brightest day, in blackest night

greenlantern

I hope y'all can forgive the mildly juvenile, but still culturally relevant diversion: I had stopped regularly reading comic books by the time that John Stewart's Green Lantern appeared. But in a lot of ways I think he is the most refreshingly universal black science-fiction superhero. In most of sci-fi, whiteness is framed as universal, and blackness is framed as provincial and local. The advanced being from the next galaxy over is generally the authoritative-sounding white man with silly putty on his face. Most black characters, on the other hand, will sound and act as if they were from 125th and Lennox Ave (give or take a light year).

In contrast to the more "ghetto-centric" blaxploitation era superheroes like Black Lighting (and variations like Black Vulcan, Soul Power, Static and Juice) or Power Man, and even in contrast to the more Afrocentric heroes like Storm or Black Panther, John Stewart is on a whole other level. (A few others in the same ballpark, which come to mind from the world outside of comic books are Mace Windu and Benjamin Sisko).

Wikipedia: Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Book of Oa: The Unofficial John Stewart Biography
Wikipedia: List of Black Superheroes
Wikipedia: History of Black Superheroes
Wikipedia: African characters in comics

Grenada's past:
race and dc comics
black comic books
birth of a nation: a comic novel
"'x-men' is not a cleverly named documentary about the nation of islam..."
on the serious tip...
aaron mcgrudder
afrofuturism/rebirth of a nation

green-lantern-green-arrow2

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

a muslim response to the pope

Zaytuna: A Muslim Response to The Pope: For They Know Exactly What They Do by Imam Zaid Shakir gives a pretty thoughtful analysis of the pope's controversial lecture in the context of other comments and policy decisions coming out of the Catholic Church recently.

Monday, October 09, 2006

evil eye protection

I'm really not superstitious. In fact, for a while now I've been really getting into the idea (associated with Asharite theology) that God is not just the First Cause, but the Only Cause. In other words, in a radical and thorough sense, everything which happens in the world is directly caused and willed by Allah. So in addition to stars and talismans not influencing your destiny, matches don't really cause fires and medicine doesn't really cure diseases. Instead, God creates the medicine and the healing and God is just in the habit (the sunnah of Allah) of making one follow the other.

Alternatively, (to point to a commonly used example from the Quran on this point) since there is no necessary connection between fire and burning, it makes sense that God could say "O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!" when Nimrod tried to burn Abraham alive. Fire doesn't have the power to burn by itself.

In this view, there is also no such thing as a miracle because whether God follows his own habits or not, everything that happens is willed and created by Allah. The created world doesn't even have the power to sustain its own existence for an instant, so another consequence is that Allah is continually recreating the cosmos from moment to moment, almost like a projector shining successive picture frames on a screen.

But all the above is really a preface. To make a long story short, I mainly wanted to share that a few days ago I ran into some friends (a married couple) who generously gave me a beautiful blue fatima's hand. I had mentioned to them some "evil-eye" issues going on in my life along with my fascination with the khamsa and moments later they offered me one (which they had actually bought for themselves in Cairo). It is hanging on my shelf right now. It is definitely one of the most interesting presents I've gotten in a while. In any case, I wanted to be able to say how pleased I was with the gift, without people accusing me of shirk. I know very well that it has no power to help or harm, but ultimately that's not the point.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

people in me

ApoC: People in Me by Robin Kelly is a brief and slightly personal look at polyculturalism and black identity.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

still muslim like me

Last year I wrote an entry called muslim like me about non-Muslims selectively practing some aspect of Islam (either fasting in Ramadan or wearing hijab) as a way to express political/ social/ spiritual solidarity with Muslims. (Unfortunately, the link to the Scarves for Solidarity story has expired.)

A good discussion of this phenomenon recently appeared over at the Woman of Color blog in an entry called Ramadan, solidarity, critiques and the internet.

And in Michigan, the Arab American NOWAR Committee is co-ordinating several solidarity fasts throughout the month of Ramadan. For more information (especially if you want to participate) check here.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

ramadan reading: the virtues of dhikr and al-ghazali

So I finished The Virtues of Ramadan by Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalvi a few days ago. Now I want to go on to reread his book The Virtues of Dhikr. I remember that when I first read that book it was really reassuring because, at the time, I was feeling doubtful about the orthodoxy of "Sufism" but the book discussed a number of hadith on the value of dhikr (including group dhikr). I know some people (especially non-Muslims in the West) see "Sufism" as this cool liberal New Age version of Islam but in reality it is just Islamic spirituality which is organically grounded in the Quran and Sunnah. If you break down "Sufism" to its basic elements it consists of the practices which would be followed by any pious thoughtful Muslim. (Not that I'm claiming to be one).

Also on my Ramadan reading list is the book On Disciplining the Soul and Breaking the Two Desires by Al-Ghazali. Basically it consists of certain sections from Ihya ulum al-din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) on asceticism and struggling against the ego, translated and annotated by T.J. Winter. I've also read this one before but I could definitely use a refresher. A few years ago I went through a period of being really excited about Al-Ghazali, but more recently I've kind of mellowed out and haven't "touched base" in a while.

Anything I could say right now about how great Al-Ghazali is would probably sound really lame so I'll just leave you with a couple of links:

A biography of Imam al-Ghazzali by Dr. G.F. Haddad

As a continuation of my muslim art of war idea, here is an excerpt from al-Ghazali on Jihad al-Nafs (with links to other scholar's comments on the same topic).

And here is a huge Al-Ghazali Website with a ton of his writings.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

more 9/11 blues

From the AP by way of Third Resurrection:
A Spanish university professor with a long beard and dark complexion said Thursday he was briefly forced off an Air Berlin airliner during a layover on the Spanish island of Mallorca by German passengers who feared he was an Islamic terrorist. (full story)
yet another helping of the post 9/11 blues

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the racial gap in the grandstands

Businessweek: The Racial Gap In The Grandstands explores how and why African Americans are losing interest in baseball while Latinos seem to be getting more involved. The piece is a bit clumsy in the sense of not acknowledging that many Latinos (especially the players) are also "black". But it still describes an interesting phenomena.

See also:
latinos and baseball

blacks in cuban med school

Since 2001, the Latin American School of Medical Sciences (LASMS) in Havana, Cuba has been admitting students from various countries in Latin America and Africa, as well as low income minority students from the U.S. into its six year medical program (particularly African Americans and some Hispanics). Since the program began in 2001, it has maintained that all of tuition, housing, and meals are free. In some cases the only necessary financing by students is for the trips to Cuba for school and back home again.

Black Electorate: African American Education Free Outside U.S. Borders - Blacks In Cuban Med School by Zekita Tucker

Sunday, September 24, 2006

the akashic records

I'm feeling a little New Age-y today. On Friday I had lunch... wow, won't be saying that for a while...on Friday I had lunch with some folks and we were talking about Rudolf Steiner and a book of his called Christianity as Mystical Fact. The book ended up being a good springboard for conversation (one topic was literal vs. metaphorical language) and it made me more curious to learn more about Steiner.

Steiner believed in something called the Akashic Records which is supposed to be a kind of comprehensive non-physical library of information which can be accessed by individuals with certain spiritual abilities.

Levi Dowling, the author of Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ claimed to have gotten the information for his gospel from the Akashic records. And according to Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson), The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ was one of the sources (in the "ordinary" non-mystical sense) of Noble Drew Ali's Circle Seven Koran.

It occurs to me that in the Quran (and hadith) there are many different references to a Book, or the Pen, or writing (e.g. [22.70] Do you not know that Allah knows what is in the heaven and the earth? Surely this is in a book; surely this is easy to Allah.) and that possibly some of these references are consistent with the concept of the Akashic records. The Quran tends to evoke the anthropomorphic image of angels following us with pieces of paper (made from trees?) writing down what we do (in what language?) with ball-point pens. But perhaps that concrete language is really refering to something different like the Akashic records? Allahu alim.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

ramadan mubarak y'all

it's the first day and I'm already staring at the clock waiting for the sun to set... maybe I should go outside. That way I could get some fresh air. Read a good book. Look at the sky... and wait for the sun to set.

pope benedict: the first year

Alternet: Pope Benedict: The First Year by Matthias Beier (originally in Tikkun). A reasonable overview of the current pope and some of his Eurocentric tendancies. (The more I think about it, "Eurocentric" is just the right term to use. "Nazi" is inflamatory and inaccurate. "Islamophobe" is to blunt and doesn't cover everything. But "Eurocentric" really does cover a wide range of his implicit and explicit actions.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the neocon's lexicon

In These Times: In The Neocons’ Lexicon Salim Muwakkil deconstructs the contradictions which lie behind the Right's use of the term "Islamofascism".

the world faces us hegemony or survival

Chavez's September 20th speech to the UN General Assembly

ramadan on saturday?

In a surprise move, ISNA and the Fiqh Council of North America are anouncing that they are using astronomical calculations in order to determine the beginning of Ramadan. The Fiqh Council's explanation of their position is given here. I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand, I've always been told that sighting with the naked eye is what is important. And something in me finds this "old school" approach appealing. At the same time, I'm also tired of all the disagreement (even at a local level) over when Ramadan begins. At least the Fiqh Council's approach seems to have some potential for promoting greater unity among Muslims in North America. Also, it wouldn't be the first time that greater scientific knowledge has had some impact on the religious behavior of Muslims in North America. When Muslim immigrants first came to the US, many of them tended to pray southeast (We are mostly north and west of Mecca) but once they had a better understanding of geodesics they started to pray northeast. Perhaps this is similar?

Monday, September 18, 2006

ramadan right around the corner

Wow, it seems like Ramadan is sneaking up on me. It is right around the corner... less than a week away. To get ready I'm going to try to review the rules on fasting in some of my "favorite" fiqh books. I also want to reread the section The Virtues of Ramadan from Tablighi Nisab by Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalvi. I feel like this year Ramadan will be harder than usual. I don't think I want to get into why. It just will be. Keep me in your dua.

more on pope benedict and islam

The often-insightful Juan Cole has recently produced two entries in the wake of Pope Benedict's gaffe on his Informed Comment blog: Pope: Manuel II's Views of Muhammad are not My Own and Pope's Trip to Turkey in Doubt (Both the entries and the comments are full of good information on the subject)

Also, for a more "big picture" perspective, you might want to check out: Benedict XVI and Islam: the first year by Islamic scholar, Abdal Hakim Murad

osama found

latest message from osama bin laden

Where do people get the idea that Muslims have no sense of humor?
Google Video: Latest Message from Osama Bin Laden

skipping towards armageddon

Skipping300



I recently started and am almost finished with a book published by Soft Skull Press and written by Michael Standaert called Skipping Towards Armageddon: The Politics and Propaganda of the Left Behind Novels and the LaHaye Empire.


Overall, I would say that the book is a good survey of the subjects covered in the subtitle. Standaert explores how the Left Behind novels can be viewed as political propaganda on behalf of the Religious Right and he also explains Tim LaHaye's extensive and varied connections to extreme-right and evangelical circles.

I was a bit surprised by how far to the right some of Tim LaHaye's connections go: the John Birch Society, Christian Reconstructionist groups which want to bring back stonings and slavery, anti-semitic organizations, militias, etc. And it was interesting to see Standaert trace some of the political implications of Premillenialism (one of several possible Christian views on the end-times). Specifically, Premillenialism teaches that the Second Coming of Christ will occur before the 1000 year period of peace, justice, and prosperity. In this view, a utopian existence will be ushered in by Jesus through supernatural means, and so efforts to improve our lives through human means (the UN, international co-operation, progressive social movements) will necessarily be considered suspect.

I wouldn't insist that all Premillenialsts are like this, but I think that in many evangelicals, Premillenialsim is woven together with conservative/reactionary political ideas to form a coherent and seamless (and somewhat problematic) worldview.

Perhaps more later...

an extensive excerpt from the book (pdf)
Soft Skull: Skipping Towards Armageddon
Eight Diagrams: An interview with Michael Standaert
The Huffington Post: Boycotting the Image, but Not the Word? (about a violent video game based on the Left Behind books)

Planet Grenada's past:
number of the beast
the rapture
christian reconstructionism
wayward christian soldiers

Saturday, September 16, 2006

beyond visibility: rethinking the african diaspora in latin america

CALL FOR PAPERS

Beyond Visibility:
Rethinking the African Diaspora in Latin America


University of California-Berkeley March 1-2, 2007

Abstract Submission Deadline: November 3, 2006



In recent years there has been an explosion in scholarship that goes beyond recognizing the presence of Afro-Latin Americans and towards interrogating this topic more deeply. Through this inaugural conference,we intend to build on this momentum--advancing inter-disciplinary scholarship on the African Diaspora in Latin America by moving towards research that critically engages the theoretical and methodological challenges of this research. Organized by the Afro-Latino Working Group at UC Berkeley’s Center for Latin American Studies, we aim to create a forum for graduate students to dialogue with established scholars whose work explores the African Diaspora in Latin America. This conference will foster new dialogues about race, ethnicity, culture, society, economy,politics and nation in the academic world. The conference will feature a series of graduate student panels as well as a faculty keynote and roundtable discussion from preeminent scholars working on the African Diaspora in Latin America. We invite abstract submissions from current graduate students on a diverse array of topics and disciplinary orientations that are both theoretical and empirical in content. The conference is oriented towards graduate students pursuing projects about the African Diaspora in the Americas (including Mexico,Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean). Specifically, we strongly encourage papers that address under-theorized regions in the Americas as well as comparative and regional works.

We offer the following themes as submission suggestions:
Theory and Pedagogy: New Directions in the Field
Social Movements and the Politics of Race
Media and Cultural Representations
Identity, Race and Ethnicity
Migration and Transnationalism
Folklore and National Identity
Comparative Historical and Literary Analysis

500 word abstracts should be submitted to the organizing committee via email as word documents or PDF files. Please submit abstracts by November 3, 2006. Submissions should include the abstract, current contact information, presentation title and current C.V. Accepted authors will be notified by December 15, along with full submission guidelines for papersand/or presentations. Full papers are due on January 5. All papers and presentations must be available in English. Papers will be made available through the Center for Latin American Studies.Submissions and inquiries should be sent to: afrolatinogroup@berkeley.edu or via USPS to

Vielka C. Hoy, Afro-Latino Working Group,
660 Barrows Hall,#2572
Berkeley, CA 94720.
Please check the website regularly for updated conference and registration information